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Soulhunters

A roleplaying game of heroes and villains among death and decay


Version 1.01

What is Soulhunters?
Soulhunters is a roleplaying game where each player controls a warrior
cursed to never die, working together to explore and face a hostile
world created by the Gamemaster (GM). What you're reading right
now contains everything you need to know as a player, but if you're the
GM you should read the GM's section as well.
What will you need to play?
At least 4 people 3-5 players and 1 GM.
Paper and pencils for everyone
One or more 8-sided dice.
What is in the player's guide?
On the rest of page 2 is a general introduction to the setting; details will
be added to the setting by you during character creation, as well as by the
GM.
On pages 3-4 you find the rules for creating a character.
On page 5 you find the rules for resolving conflicts and combat
On page 6 you find how you can invest the souls you have taken from
your beaten opponents into powers for your character.

contains, which the undead can use to keep the decay at bay, at least until
the next death.
Many undead go mad with the realization that their mortal lives can never
be regained. Others stagnate, fear of the pain and suffering of dying stalling
them forever. Yet there are a chosen few who defy the madness and the
pain, and brave the hostile world in search of an answer
You are one of these undead.
A World of Soulhunters Specific information
The setting of Soulhunters is not the same for every gaming group; in fact,
noone should play in the exact same setting. The nuances of the world are
created in two places; by the players during character creation, and the
preparation work of the GM. During character creation you will answer
questions, including where your character is from. This is your chance to
have an influence on the setting
The place you're adventuring in at the beginning, however, is made by the
GM. In future sessions you might return to your homeland, but at first you
are all in a foreign world. In preparation of the first session the GM also
decides the details of the undead curse, who started it, why it was done, and
how it can be undone. It is up to the undead to discover this through play

The World of Soulhunters Generic information


Humanity has been cursed. The dead have begun to rise, hideously
scarred yet still sentient, their limbs uniting and bones mending no matter
how often they are struck down. The undead are stuck in a limbo of their
death, everything on their person gaining uncanny resilience, always
returning to their owner given enough time, yet any foreign object they
wield rusts, rots or is turned to dust before they can be of any use. The
only relief lies in the acquisition of the Souls every sapient being
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Character creation
What time is it?
While the rules of Soulhunters can be used to fit practically any era from
ancient times to the far future, it is presumed that you are playing in a
medieval fantasy world. The GM should either decide when the game is
set during his preparations, or ask the group beforehand what they would
prefer.

Background: Personality, Family and Culture


Describe the above in as much detail as you can. To begin with you can
answer some of the questions below, but they're not obligatory
The land your character comes from, what does it look like?
How does your culture deal with problems?
What did your family do when you came of age?
How did your family deal with strangers?
What kinds of work were you trained to do?
Right-hand and Left-hand
When and why did you leave your country?
For the purpose of character creation, the player on your right is your
What is the most valuable lesson your learned due to your
Right-hand, and the player on your left is your Left-hand. This means that
background?
after you've described a part of your character, your Right-hand decides
When you're done, have your Right-hand and Left-hand take turns giving
what Advantages that makes you have, and your Left-hand decides what
you Advantages and Drawbacks based on the background you've provided,
Drawbacks that makes you have, each making a list on a sheet of paper.
until you have 3 Advantages and 3 Drawbacks.
The GM doesn't count, so if you sit next to him you take the next player
to your right or left.
Looks, Arms and Gear
Describe what your character looks like and what gear he carried around
Name
the moment he died. Like above, you can begin with answering the
Your character's name has no direct impact on the mechanics of the game,
questions below
but should still be chosen with care, primarily because it is the name used
What is your character's most striking feature?
to refer to your character, but also because it is a link to his lost life as a
What weapon does your character rely on the most?
mortal. Try to find a name that suits the time period.
How are your weapons differentiated from others of its kind?
How does your character defend himself from harm? Armor, shield,
Memories
dexterity?
Your character starts with three specific memories, additional strings that
What other clothing does your character wear?
connect your character to his life before being cursed. You can acquire
What tasks are your character prepared to do?
more memories later through the expenditure of Souls, but to begin with
What is your character's favourite ornament?
describe, to everyone at the table, your character's best or most favourite
When you're done, once again have your Right-hand and Left-hand take
moment, your character's lowest or most shameful moment, and finally
turns giving Advantages and Drawbacks, this time until you have 4 more
the moment of your character's death.
advantages and 4 more drawbacks.
Write them all down on your own sheet.

Done!
At this point you should have three sheets, one with 7 advantages, one
with 7 drawbacks, and one with three memories. Repeat the above
process until everyone has made a character.
Starting the game
Once everyone has made a character, hand over your Drawbacks sheet to
the GM. Then, everyone picks an Ally, and hands them their Advantages
sheet. Everyone should be an Ally to someone, so noone can be an Ally to
two persons, and you cannot be each other's Ally. Finally, at the bottom of
your Memories sheet, write the name of each other Player Character, and
write one thing, one quality or characteristic, that your character really
likes about that character. Once play begins, you cannot directly attack
that character unless he has lost the quality or characteristic written.
Now you're ready to play; look to the GM as he sets the first scene, and
plunges you into the dark world he has created.

Base Mechanics
Whenever you take an action where you risk death or failure, describe
what you're doing. Then your Ally notes which of your Advantages apply,
and the GM notes which of your Drawbacks apply. Then you roll the d8,
adding 1 for each advantage, and subtracting 1 for each Drawback. If it
totals 5 or more, you succeed in what you set out to do. If it totals 4 or
less you fail, and take a loss depending on the situation; for example this
could be death, embarrasment, or loss of an item. Note that a natural roll
of 1 is always a failure, and a natural roll of 8 is always a success, despite
bonuses and penalties.
Non-combat Actions
Do not roll the dice if there's nothing at risk. These tests can both mean
dangerous work, like climbing a rock surface, maneuvering a ship in
adverse conditions, almost-combat actions like knocking someone
unconscious, or social dangers such as convincing the townspeople that
you're not undead. As a guideline, as long as you're not in a straight-up
fight, use these instead of combat actions.
Combat
Combat actions are divided into four kinds; Defensive, Distracting,
Exposing and Wounding. Whenever you make an action in combat, in
addition to your Advantages and Drawbacks, many monsters have
additional ways to inconvenience you, called Harries. This could be the
schorching heat near a being made of fire, the piercing gaze of a
centuries-old creauture, or slippery goo coming from a bog-fiend. Unless
you figure out some way to avoid them, each Harry imposes a -1 to your
actions. If you are ever outnumbered in a fight, you get -1 per individual
the enemy has in excess of you.

takes all your Souls. If you succeed you've avoided or withstood the
assault, and can freely make your next move.
A Distracting action is made whenever you try to annoy or hinder a
monster to such a degree that it neglects its defenses. If you fail, you just
waste a bunch of time. If you succeed, you've frustrated, angered or
annoyed the creature so much that any other character doing an action
against it gets a +1 to his roll.
An Exposing action is made when you try to undo, circumvent or pierce
through a monster's defenses. This action is needed whenever a creature
has one or more Wards which prevent a character from attacking it. If you
fail you were unable to lift the ward, and you've exposed yourself to the
monster, forcing you to immediately make a Defensive action. If you
succeed you've at least temporarily lifted the Ward. If the creature has no
Wards remaining, you may immediately try to make a Wounding action.
A Wounding action is made when you strike a monster intending to kill it.
This can only be done if the creature has no Wards, or all Wards have been
exposed. If you fail you were unable to kill the monster, which immediately
attacks, forcing you to take a defensive action. Additionally, at the GM's
discretion, one of the Wards have been remade, and it will have to be
exposed again. If you succeed, the monster is dead, and you can
victoriously split its Souls with your companions

A note on initiative and turns


Soulhunters doesn't have a random initiative system. The first player who
speaks up gets to make his action first, the next one gets to act next. This is
because the game is primarily team-work focused; the players making
plans for what to do on each turn should be encouraged, and should not be
A Defensive action is made when you are attacked by a monster, and you disrupted by random initiative. Just make sure each player gets to make an
do not have any Wards to protect you. If you fail you die, and the monster action each round
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Spending Souls: Improvement


Whenever you kill a living being with a Soul (sentient non-undead beings
always have at least one) or any creature that also has acquired Souls,
your party splits the Souls of the creature however you like. You can
spend these Souls in several ways, but only when you have some peace
and quiet, such as when you've made camp for the night, or when you
take a moment of rest. Write your improvements on the same sheet as
your memories. Note that apart from Memories, you lose ALL
improvements when you die. Such is life as an undead.
Living Appearance 1 Soul
By default, your appearance is that of a withered, rotting corpse. You can
try to mask this with clothing or other things, but the easiest way is to
invest a single soul into your appearance. This makes you appear exactly
like a living human, to the extent that only specific magic can tell the
difference.
Resist decay 1 Soul
One aspect of the undead curse is that of decay; apart from the gear and
clothing you wore at the moment of your death, everything you attempt
to wield rots and rusts immediately in your grasp. However, by investing
a soul as you pick up an item, you can postpone the decay indefinitely; or
at least until the next time you die. The boon you gain from an item is
always situational; You might use it to give you an advantage in a certain
situation (i.e. It gives you +1), to avoid a Harry, or even bypass a ward.

Power 3 Souls
Buying a Power allows you to do something a human cannot normally do.
This can be boosting a regular ability to super-human levels, super-natural
abilities or spells. Like items the boon is sitational, but it usually has
greater applicability than a single item. Below are a sample of powers, but
feel free to invent your own:
Incredible strength Allows you to wield inhumanly heavy items, and use
your strength to lift, bend or break.
Honeyed Tongue You speech gains an almost divine quality, moving
people into trusting and following you with greater ease.
Summon Fire -Using your primal emotions, you conjure up fire where
before there was none, incinerating foes and driving away the cold
Form of the Hawk Enables you to turn into a hawk, giving the ability to
fly and peck at your opponent's weak spots
Keep in mind that powers are Powerful. If you already have Incredible
Strength, you should never have to take Very Incredible Strength; you are
either strong enough to do a thing, or it requires a roll. And if there is
nothing at risk, you are simply always strong enough.

Ward 5 Souls
Wards protect you from dying; as such they can be anything that protects
your vitals, like skin made of stone, a constant protective spell or even
esoteric things like limited prescience. Whenever a monster attacks you, it
has to pick apart your ward first, essentially enabling you to act once more
Memory 1 Soul
before you have to make a Defensive action. When you buy a Ward and
Buying a memory allows you to stave off the insanity for one more death. decide what it is, the GM will tell you what your one weakness is; if a
When you buy a memory, you have to share it with your companions; tell monster is able to exploit that weakness, it can strike you freely.
them about the memory, and why it's important to you.

Gamemaster's Section
The role of the Gamemaster
The players of Soulhunters have their job cut out for them: Exploring the
world, fighting monsters, and gathering Souls. As a GM your task is a bit
more daunting; you're the one responsible for setting up the world,
exposing it to your players, and act out the characters and monsters they
encounter. This guide will teach you exactly how to do that, and will
include three sections: The first will give you some guidelines for running
the game (7-8), the second is the rules for making the antagonists and
monsters of the world (9-10), and the third will focus on how to make
your own dark fantasy setting, filled with terror and tragedy (11-12).

The game is supposed to be challenging and lethal, and the PCs are
supposed to stack their Advantages and avoid exposing their Weaknesses in
order to succeed. Just make sure that the players know this going in; some
players don't like high-lethality games, which simply means that this game
is not for them. This also means that you shouldn't pull your punches; when
the characters have risen a bit in power, they're basically beacons of Souls
just waiting to be mined.

Be Fair
As the GM, you have access to all the PC's Drawbacks, and you're the one
who decides which of their Drawbacks apply in a given situation. The basis
of this is the description each player gives when they perform an action,
and while it can be tempting to shut them down and give them a bunch of
minuses against a creature you've lovingly created, this will undoubtedly
If making your own world seems too large a task for you, I will make at
lead to antagonism towards you, and eventually you won't have any
least one sample setting for you to use, which you can probably find at
players. Thus try to be as fair as possibly when choosing Drawbacks, and
the same place you found this PDF. Or not, if I've not actually made it
encourage the players to be fair when they choose their advantages. If
yet.
you're ever in doubt, or one of the players think you're being unfair, the best
way to solve this is to turn it over to the rest of the table, and hear what
Running Soulhunters
everyone thinks.
The guidelines for running the game can be summed up in three major
When running monsters this way, you should always give a player
rules for you to follow: Be Lethal, Be Fair and Be True. These will be
at least two rolls; surprising a character and having him make a Defensive
described in greater detail down below. What won't be covered are the
action immediately is not cool. If you have a monster who in its nature is
basic guidelines of running a roleplaying game, If you haven't run a game surprising, you should a) give it a power that reflects this (see the section
before, I recommend checking out How to Run Games by Greg Stolze,
on making monsters and b) have a character, most often the one leading the
which can be found on this page:
way, describe how he's proceeding and making a non-lethal roll as normal,
http://www.gregstolze.com/downloads.html right at the bottom.
and if he fails that roll, have him make a Defensive action.
This also means that you should keep the Souls flowing. Every
Be Lethal
place, opponent or situation should include either a major objective of the
The rules of Soulhunter are pretty fiercely stacked against the player
players, or a way to increase your Soul power, preferably both. You also
characters; death can come in as few as two dice rolls, opponents have
shouldn't restrict the powers of the PCs without good reason, once again
Powers and Wards of their own to use against the players, and once you
turning judgement over to the table at large if there's a dispute.
die you're back to square 1 in terms of power. This is perfectly alright!
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Be True
This means to be true to your setting, your characters and your monsters.
What this generally entails is that when you create your own world, you
decide something to be true about the setting, the details of the undead
curse and the strengths and weaknesses of your monsters. The keyword is
verisimilitude; when you stay true to your setting, it doesn't feel like the
PCs are moving around in a constantly morphing world. This doesn't
mean that you should know absolutely everything about the setting from
before the first session, but it does mean you keep the rules of the setting
in mind when you improvise, and you do not suddenly change the powers
of the monster you've created. This also counts for the parts of the world
the players create through character generation and Memories; you are
free to improvise details about their home country, as long as you do not
contradict the details that they have come up with.

often as possible, and play off what they decide. What you then do, when
they come into contact with something you've prepared, you present it and
Improvise off of what they do to it. To many Gamemasters improvising is a
scary thing that you do when the players do things you don't expect. It is
however neccessary if you want to run a good game of Soulhunters, and
you should get used to it as quick as possible. In improv theater you often
talk of two general guideliens, Yes, and... and Don't try to be clever.
The first means that when the players do something, acknowledge what
they're doing and build your improv on that; never just shut down a player
because you don't like what he's doing. The second simply means to say
what comes to mind; often that is what makes most sense. If you try to do
something clever all the time, you'll probably stall and the pace of the backand-forth conversation with your players breaks. Besides, the cleverness
comes from the last part, Scheming; this entails delegating planning to the
characters you control. Everyone the players meet, even if they are friendly,
A Final Note: Playing to find out what happens
should have a scheme that includes the players. This allows you to move
One last thing to keep in mind, is that as a GM you should never plan.
the players to action, either working for or against the scheming your
When you sit down and create a setting, never plan for the PCs to go
character has done. Then your characters can respond by altering their
somewhere specific and do certain things; in roleplaying circles you often schemes, leading to a chain of causal events between the players and your
hear about the railroading GM, where every event is on rails and
characters, driving forth the game without you planning where it goes.
happens in a certain order, no matter what the PCs do. Sometimes you
Keep this in mind, and soon you'll be practiced enough to run a great game
even hear apologetically that the GM has to do at least some railroading, for your group.
or the plot won't progress. This process is utterly counterproductive to the
kind of game Soulhunters is, since it relies on the players being proactive
and forging their own way through the setting you've created. To avoid
planning yourself, and still drive the game forward, you have to Saturate,
Improvise and Scheme. Saturation means that you fill the world with
interesting things, and scatter links all around to the interesting things
you've prepared. The PCs should never only have one way to go, or one
place to explore. The links can be all kinds of things; rumors from your
characters, items that detail a place, an ominous creature flying in a
certain direction, a simple roadsign, etc. Hand these out to the PCs as
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Making monsters
Monsters are any antagonist the characters encounter. Creating monsters
for your game is done in much the same way that players improve their
characters. They are made up of a name, a description of their appearance
and behavior, and a set of abilities: Powers, Harries and Wards. These
abilities also determine how many souls they are worth. All their abilities
should be determined from their description, and the description should
detail how they use their powers. A creature doesn't have to have abilities;
for example, a city guard could look like this.

character, or attacking the characters in particular situations. Here is Jeanne


again, after defeating a soul-bearing undead

Name: Jeanne the Fearless


Descripion: Clad in chainmail, wielding a long spear and a sword as a
sidearm, Jeanne guards the city gates of Ville de Livre, ensuring that only
honest merchants and scholars enter. She has no patience for anyone
heavily armed, but a purse of silver can smoothen the entrance. After facing
an undead in battle she has lost the fear that bound her earlier, enabling her
to stand fast in the face of danger.
Name: Jeanne
Power: Fearless Jeanne fears nothing in this world, and any attempts at
Description: Clad in chainmail, wielding a long spear and a sword as a
intimidation are met with reason rather than fear.
sidearm, Jeanne guards the city gates of Ville de Livre, ensuring that only Souls: 2
honest merchants and scholars enter. She has no patience for anyone
heavily armed, but a purse of silver can smoothen the entrance. Jeanne
Harries are abilities that always distract or work against any attackers,
has never faced an undead in battle, and is terrified of the possibility of it imposing a -1 penalty to anyone who isn't able to specifically avoid it. It
happening.
can be all manner of things, but is usually of magical nature. Harries should
Souls: 1
always have a weakness, or some way to be avoided. Let's see how Jeanne
decides to arm herself after she has become an experienced undead hunter
There are two kinds of monsters that have more than 1 soul: Either it has
natural powers, like the fiery breath of a dragon, or it has acquired souls
Name: Jeanne de Livre
from the opponents it has slain. The costs for a monster to improve itself Description: Clad in chainmail, wielding a long spear and a sword as a
is a bit different than for the players:
sidearm, Jeanne is a warrior from the city Ville de Livre, but has decided to
seek out and slay the undead infesting the world. Fearless and armed with a
Power: 1 Soul
terrible magic aura that freezes the feet of anyone near her, she is strong
Harry: 3 Souls
enough to pose a threat to even an experienced undead.
Ward: 5 Souls
Power: Fearless
Harries: Aura of freezing cold With ice spreading out across the ground
Powers are either an ability that a monster naturally has that makes it a
where Jeanne walks, this freezing aura can only be avoided by avoiding
fearsome predator, or a certain power that a monster has acquired through contact with the earth around her.
defeating beings with souls. Powers are generally used in particular
Souls: 5
situations in order to circumvent the Wards or nullify the power of a
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Finally, Wards are the most costly improvement, and with good reason:
Like with the PCs, it is a defense that has to be exposed before you can
kill the being. In game terms this means the characters have to make an
exposing action, greatly increasing the chance of their failure. Like with
harries, it should have one weakness which allows the exposing action to
be avoided, but feel free to make it only affected by special magic or
powers.
Name: Jeanne de Livre
Description: Wielding a long spear and a sword as a sidearm, Jeanne is a
warrior from the city Ville de Livre, but has decided to seek out and slay
the undead infesting the world. Fearless and armed with a terrible magic
aura that freezes the feet of anyone near her, she is strong enough to pose
a threat to even an experienced undead. She has decided to eschew the
use of armor, instead using the power of souls to turn her skin into
chainmail.
Power: Fearless
Harries: Aura of freezing cold With ice spreading out across the ground
where Jeanne walks, this freezing aura can only be avoided by avoiding
contact with the earth around her.
Ward: Chainmail skin Jeanne's skin has hardened and turned into metal,
allowing only the most savage blows to fell her. The only weakness lies
in magic that can manipulate metal, which manipulates her skin as easy
as steel
Souls: 10

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Creating your own setting - A World of Soulhunters


Worldbuilding is something very dependent on the Gamemaster you are;
Some prefer using an established setting, others work for hours on end
deciding the minute details for themselves, or even some who establish it
all during play. Soulhunters uses a mix of these, with some details already
determined, some things established before play, and other things during
or between sessions. This section will help you make a Soulhunters world
to call your own, ready for contact with the players.
General rules
There are some details that are the core of every Soulhunters game, and
changing these means changing how the game is played. They are the
following:
The Nature of the Curse: When people die, they become undead as they
lose their own soul. You choose how long it takes before undead return to
consciousness, be it minutes, hours or days. The curse makes undead stay
in a stasis of when they died; they retain the equipment and clothing they
wore when they died, but anything else they wield rots, rusts or turns to
dust. This doesn't mean that anything they touch decays, they need to
have control over it before it breaks.
Everyone's a foreigner: The Player Characters all come from another
country, stranded in the place where you begin play. As such, the players
all have control over the details of a particular part of the world. During
play and between sessions, you can invent new details about the other
countries, but they cannot contradict the details the players have come up
with.
The Rule of but...: One of the main themes of Soulhunters is that
nothing is as it seems. You are the enforcer of this rule, so whenever you
invent a detail about the world, a character or monster, be it before,
during or after a session, always say but... and make new detail that
isn't outright apparent. Then make sure there is something in the world
that exposes these details, so that the players have some way of figuring it

out.
Before the first session: Getting Started.
The True Nature of the Curse: This is the most important detail of the
setting, and one you should use utmost care when deciding. What started
the curse? How can you stop it? Why would someone want the curse
sustained? What places or items are connected to the curse? Leave that last
one unanswered for now; you'll decide on it once the players have made
some more countries that you can make places in. As always, say but...
after every detail. Keep in mind that there should be a reward of some kind
no matter how you decide to deal with the curse, something above material
wealth or souls, to hook the characters into dealing with it.
The first place: Choose one: Prison, grave, or crossroads, then think of a
place that's either concretely or abstactly an example of this kind of place.
This is where play begins. Build up around it, making up new places and
placing monsters. Around a prison is a castle; around a castle, a village;
around a village, a forest. Ideally the place you create now should be large
enough that you can spend at least the first session there. In order to do this,
saturate with monsters, characters and places for the character to face and
explore. Try to fill it with different kinds of encounters, both friendly,
neutral and immediately hostile. Have at least one enemy that is obviously
beyond their current level; If they decide to face it anyway and die, they
won't lose a lot of power; and if they still manage to beat it, let them bask
in the glory of victory.
Making places: Sometimes, for example when starting at a crossroads, you
won't want to invest too much time at each possible direction. Here's an
easy 3-step way to make a place, which leaves plenty of room for
improvisation
1 The Treasure. Something the players might want, like a powerful item
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or an important piece of information.


2 Inner Guardians. Whatever is protecting the treasure, be it a monster,
a puzzle or some kind of deception
3 Other party. Someone else who wants the treasure, either they want
the PCs aid or they'll want it for themselves.
Remember, for each of these things ask but..., and make sure that the
treasure leads to other things, leaving questions to be answered.
Between sessions
Once you have played through the first session, you'll have both the
province you began in as well as the countries your players have
described during character creation. What you do between the first and
second session is to make places that connect the curse with the world.
Once you have at least one place in each country, spread rumors and
other leads at the beginning of the next session, and saturate until the
players are hooked: The places shouldn't just contain leads, they should
contain things like knowledge, weapons, monsters with a lot of souls, and
other treasure.
An average campaign of Soulhunters will probably last between 4-6
sessions, depending on the amount of players and how much time you
spend in the various countries. Always keep the true nature of the curse
dangling somewhere out of reach until the last session. Once they've
discovered the true nature, with or without the but..., just outright say
that the next session will be the last: Whatever they decide to do with the
information they've got is up to them.

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Inspiration and influences


I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I say Dark Souls is the main
influence to Soulhunters, as my goal was basically to recreate the 'feel' of
the game in a tabletop environment.
Other media It's directly influenced by is:
Robert E. Howard's Conan short stories
Shadow of the Colossus
Mechanics I've borrowed
The questionnaire-like character creation from Dread by The Impossible
Dream
Best friends (Ally) from Panty Explosion by Atarashi games

Sharing and other stuff


This document is covered by a Creative Commons license, like this one:
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
What this means is you're allowed to share or adapt it any way you like, as
long as you attribute me, Armored Undead, and you do not use it for
commercial purposes. You're especially welcome to make monsters or
settings and sharing them on the internets, in fact I'd be really flattered if
you do.
If you have questions, suggestions, want to tell me I've used the CC license
wrong or if you've actually run a game and want to tell me about it, you can
mail me at Soulhuntersau@gmail.com

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